Has Auburn been lucky or good?

Examining how much of Tigers' success is based on good fortune

Updated: November 26, 2013, 1:04 PM ET
By Brian Fremeau | ESPN Insider

Gus MalzahnAP Photo/Danny JohnstonAuburn head coach Gus Malzahn helped turn a three-win team into a national title contender.

Auburn and Alabama have faced off in hard-fought battles for decades in one of college football's most intensely competitive rivalries. This year's Iron Bowl ramps up the intensity and raises the stakes for both teams, a historic showdown with both conference and national championship implications.

Alabama brings its No. 1 BCS ranking to Jordan-Hare Stadium, two wins away from claiming its third straight BCS national championship game berth. Auburn ranks No. 4 in the BCS, and a win over the Crimson Tide would seal up an SEC West division crown and position the Tigers to potentially leap into the title game as well.

Auburn has been one of the big surprises of the 2013 season. Only one year removed from a 3-9 season, winless in SEC play, new head coach Gus Malzahn turned the program around faster than anyone expected. And the Tigers have been riding a wave of good fortune as well.

Two weeks ago, a miracle 73-yard tipped pass touchdown from Nick Marshall to Ricardo Louis late in the game against Georgia gave Auburn its fifth victory of the season decided by a single score. The Tigers  knocked off Mississippi State back on Sept. 14 with a touchdown to take the lead with only 10 seconds left in the game. They took the lead for good against Texas A&M with only 1:19 on the clock and held on for the win.

Every championship contender survives a close call at some point in the season, but the Tigers' late-game magic has been especially dramatic this year. Has Auburn been more lucky than good? That's a question our advanced stats can help answer. Let's take a closer look at the Tigers' statistical profile to measure how much they have benefited from good fortune and what it will take to beat Alabama this weekend.

Brian Fremeau

ESPN Insider
• Has been a contributor to ESPN Insider and ESPN The Magazine since 2009
• Creator of the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), a measure of college football team efficiency
• Contributor to Football Outsiders and his own site, bcftoys.com